By Rob Currer, PADI IDC Staff Instructor at Patriot Scuba in Virginia, USA, and 2016 PADI AmbassaDiver.
My generation is called the “Me Generation” a lot, and it’s true that identity holds unparalleled importance to Millennials. (Millennials are loosely defined as children born in the early 1980s to the year 2000.) We could dive into an extensive sociological debate as to why that is but, honestly, the why of it doesn’t necessarily matter in this context. What does matter is that who we are and where we fit in this big world matters to us a great deal. This sense of identity is so important to us that it influences many of the decisions we make, especially in how we spend our free time. Consequently, this means our self-image plays a large role in determining whether or not we are spending our money on scuba diving.
Who you are matters more than the products you carry
Seeing as we place so much value on our own identities, it shouldn’t be a shock that we appraise organizations by their identities – we care much more about who you are as opposed to what your business produces. This is why terms like “fair trade” and “locally sourced” matter to us; it tells us something about who you are. To effectively communicate with the likes of Millennials, you need to have a clear idea of your organization’s identity and how that links to scuba diving.
I recommend a “who-what-how” approach here: Identify who you are, what you believe in and how scuba diving helps you accomplish that. For example: Who I am is a man who wants to leave the world a better place than I found it; what I believe in is education and personal growth through fun and shared experience; how I accomplish that is by teaching scuba diving. In effect, I started with the broad scale picture of myself, and refined it into a core statement of belief. From there the leap to teaching scuba diving was an easy one because the PADI system is all about education and personal growth, plus diving itself is an inherently fun experience shared with at least one buddy.
Alternately, I could have said: Who I am is an adventurer. What I believe in is testing my limits through personal experience and endeavor. How I do this is by wreck diving. Again, I took a broad scale facet of my personality and distilled it to a core statement of belief. Again, the link to diving was an easy one.
I recommend that everyone sits down and comes up with a couple versions of these three statements for themselves. Identify who you are, what you stand for and how scuba diving reflects that. Once you have, pick the top three or so and mold your professional image to exude those core values. You should be selling those values and not selling diving.
Experiences define us and we’ll pay for those
Ultimately, life is a collection of events, and we want those to be good ones. More than any other generation, millennials are willing to seek out and pay for experiences. This is good news for the dive industry, but it also means we need to shift away from focusing on the tangibles – equipment, certification cards, etc – and turn our attention to the intangibles, like the experiences that diving provides.
If you start viewing the courses, equipment and trips that you sell as simply a means of sharing those incredible dive experiences, your message will resonate more strongly with my generation. In our mind, gear and training is a means to an end; it’s the experience that defines us. Make a point to remind us the experience is really what we are investing in and not the equipment itself. You can use nearly any media for this, but the easiest is probably digital underwater photography.
When trying to convert a Millennial into a customer, start by talking about your favorite photo from your last trip. Talk about why you love that shot and what it means to you. Make it personal, then show it to them. Not on the computer but on your phone. Pull it up on your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts and show it to them there. Let them flip through the whole album if they’re interested, but don’t chime in on any other photos without some expression of interest. (In other words, if they say “That’s beautiful!” comment on it briefly. If they say, “Hmm,” don’t say anything.) When they finish looking through the shots, say something out of who-what-how approach above like, “That’s what I love about diving; it lets me take my photography to the next level” or “I’d never be able to experience all that beauty if I didn’t dive.” Make it a casual statement, not a sermon.
This is like a sample platter at a bakery – it allows your Millennial clients enough of a taste to get their mouths watering, but not nearly enough to satisfy that growing craving. Then, like any good baker, show that client how to best satisfy that craving.
Care about us and we’ll care about you
All of which boils down to this: Care about who we are and we’ll care about who you are. Ultimately, we are buying an experience and what that experience says about us. Who you are says a lot about that experience, and can decide whether or not we want it.